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UK: New FGM Worry

A NURSE who specialises in health issues arising from female genital mutilation (FGM) has expressed concern following reports of FGM-affected women being stitched up again after childbirth.

It is believed that more than 1,000 women in Waltham Forest have experienced FGM, and the Metropolitan Police has offered a £20,000 reward for information that leads to the UK's first-ever FGM prosecution.

Waltham Forest Primary Care Trust specialist nurse Jennifer Bourne works at the African Well Women's Clinic in Kirkdale Road, Leyton-stone, which provides advice on FGM-related issues.

Ms Bourne contacted the Guardian following a letter from a reader which said: "A midwife friend has told me how the women have to be cut open in order to give birth and then stitched up again afterwards."

Ms Bourne said she was concerned about this observation.

She said: "This has been against the law since the first legislation, the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 1985, therefore any midwife who has done this has broken the law."

FGM is a painful procedure which can cause lifelong health problems. It is carried out in 28 African countries and a handful of nations in the Middle East.

The summer is a time when some parents take their children out of the UK to have the procedure done.

Under UK law it is illegal to carry out FGM or to send children abroad to have it done. It carries a prison sentence of up to 14 years.

The African Well Women's Clinic can be contacted on 8430 7382 PROTOCOLS set out by the Waltham Forest Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) outline how teachers and other professionals should recognise and deal with suspected FGM on children.

Ms Bourne said that education, health and other professionals should be aware of which children are from countries that practise FGM, and note when a child is going on holiday for a long time or going for a "special celebration".

The LSCB's guidelines aim to prevent FGM happening, but they also set out warning signs that may indicate a child or young person has already been a victim of FGM.

These include: l A child frequently asking to go to the toilet, and spending long periods of time away from the classroom l Prolonged absences from school l Behavioural changes following a prolonged absence The protocol says that if there is any information or concern that a child is at immediate risk of, or has undergone, FGM, the matter should be referred to the council's social services department, which can investigate under the Children Act.

SOURCE: Guardian

AUTHOR: Carl Brown

URL: Click here

DATE: 07/08/2007

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